Kenya still far from gender equality, data shows

By Mumbi Kinyua | Published Tue, March 14th 2017 at 07:59, Updated March 14th 2017 at 08:03 GMT +3

“Men tend to make it in life faster because they do not take breaks in between, unlike women,” said Elizabeth Nkuuku on the challenges women face as they navigate Kenya’s corporate scene.

Ms Nkuuku is the chief investments officer at Cytonn Investments Management, and having held high-profile positions over the years, understands the hurdles women have to jump to get to the top.

“You could graduate from college with someone, but as a woman, you can get left behind because you need time off to take care of your children,” she said.

Indeed, of the 65 listed companies in the country, only four — Standard Chartered Bank, Uchumi Supermarkets, Eveready and Unga Group — have female board chairpersons . This is according to Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) Vice Chairperson Bob Karina, who was speaking during a Ring the Bell for Gender Equality event to mark International Women’s Day last week. He added that just three listed firms have female CEOs.

According to Mr Karina, gender disparity in corporate Kenya is a major challenge, and it continues to prevail despite efforts to implement the one-third rule in gender representation.

Across Africa, the data shows that just five per cent of CEO positions and 36 per cent of promotions go to women.

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Kenya Association of Manufacturers Chairperson Flora Mutahi said there is a notable exclusion of women in manufacturing due to limited access to finance and a lack of exposure to advanced skills.

Top-level positions

Reversing these statistics could lead to economic growth in Africa as women are powerful engines of development and financial inclusion, added Karina.

“Gender disparity constitutes the untapped potential of skilled human resource as evidenced by the discrepancy between the high number of female graduates and their underrepresentation in top-level positions,” he said.

Further, the latest report released by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) indicates that women’s participation in the bourse remains low. In the quarter ended December 2016, just 32 per cent of equity investors were female. And of the 11.3 billion shares held by December 2016, women accounted for 3.8 billion of these.

According to the Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship released last week, the main challenges women face include lack of funding, regulatory restrictions and institutional inefficiencies, lack of self-belief and entrepreneurial drive, fear of failure and socio-cultural restrictions.

Of the 54 markets surveyed for the index across Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Uganda emerged top, with 34.8 per cent of businesses owned by women. Botswana came in second at 34.6 per cent. Kenya was not surveyed.

“These resilient business owners are a vital part of a thriving ecosystem, and Africa is showing the rest of the world that it is serious about supporting women in business as it develops a more financial inclusive continent,” the index noted.

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